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Zebra Labs raises $5 million to assist Chinese celebrities in entering the Metaverse

Wowkie Zhang, a Chinese pop-punk musician, produced a song video in June in which he interacts with a virtual figure in a hyper-colored, animated environment reminiscent of Pixar films. The avatar, having silver hair in the style of Generation Z, a yellow and black oversized sweatshirt, and baggy leggings, performs hip-hop routines to Zhang’s infectious, upbeat music.

The video’s creator, Zebra Labs, is transforming the virtual persona into a reusable piece of intellectual property that can be purchased as NFTs on marketplaces and appear in other virtual events, such as video games. Scarlett Li, founder and CEO of Zebra Labs, tells TechCrunch that the business is waiting for the bull market to return to launch the NFT project.

The aim of Zebra Labs is to “create intellectual property that’s deeply integrated with content” and “run virtual idols like celebrities,” says Li. Some of the created avatars are based on actual celebrities, while others are creative characters. Zebra Labs cultivates a fanbase for its idols through short videos, photographs, and social media posts, and then monetises the fan base, in order to create income. In addition, it licenses its virtual idols to third parties for a price.

Zebra Labs is attempting to establish a fan following for Zookie, who appears in Wowkie Zhang’s music video, by producing Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) clips of the character:

Li, who previously helped organize some of China’s major music events, believes that NFT, which is already widely used in validating IP rights, may be utilized to further engage fans. “When you reach 30 years old, you lose interest to explore music, so a virtual environment can jumpstart visualization [of music] again.”

In addition, NFTs provide young musicians with a more direct source of income. Tencent and NetEase own the music streaming behemoths that control the dissemination of music in China. These platforms prefer to give user traffic to musicians who already have a large fan base, “so to live well as a musician, you need to have a million followers,” says Li.

Li, a veteran of music festivals, is enthusiastic about the possibility of internet concerts. She is comparing herself to Ariana Grande’s Fortnite concert, in which the singer’s virtual apparition arrives onto a colorful island wearing a glittering silver outfit and a sparkling white ponytail. Li said Zebra Labs is in discussions with many gaming companies to create virtual concerts for Chinese artists within a Minecraft-like game and a metaverse platform by 2023.

Recently, Zebra Labs raised $5 million to further its metaverse vision. Chinese gaming company NetDragon and Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo provided the cash. According to Li, recruiting a Japanese investor can help the firm learn from Japan’s extensive history of IP management, which is highlighted by the success of virtual idols such as Hatsune Miku. SOSV, a well-known VC firm with a network of accelerators, is also an investor in the company.

Following its partnership with Wowkie Zhang’s music video, which got about 40 million visits across a variety of online channels, Zebra Labs is working with five other artists. It also intends to unveil Zhang’s digital twin in the first quarter of 2023.

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About MahKa

Zebra Labs raises $5 million to assist Chinese celebrities in entering the MetaverseMahKa loves exploring the decentralized world. She writes about NFTs, the metaverse, Web3 and similar topics.

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